The opportunities to reshape the Kremlin’s strategic calculations are clear and readily available in Ukraine. As the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe spelled the end of the Soviet Union, updating former National Security Advisor Brzezinski’s prescient comment for today’s struggle reveals the same opportunity—the survival of an independent and democratic Ukraine means defeat for Russia’s revanchist empire, and that will always be in the interest of the United States and its democratic allies.
The primary project is not defeating combatants—instead, the project is the community itself. What better way to ensure the community remains central to strategies of securing them than to find mechanisms to directly adopt precepts of community policing when countering hybrid threats—to constabularize America’s approach to security.
Political warfare and a geopolitical actor’s pursuit of political dominance is not new. The Soviet Union’s success during the Vietnam era showcases the importance of political warfare as the KGB was able to sow distrust and promote anti-war sentiment in the United States. In today’s digital age, social media is a powerful and potentially a dangerous weapon that can erode trust within society and its government. I do not suggest that political warfare acts as the backbone in projecting power or influence abroad.
Engelstein’s book serves as a useful reminder that the hybrid warfare playbook is not new, especially not within the context of Eastern Europe. Almost every tactic Western analysts have attributed to Russia since the 2014 invasion of Crimea can be found in the book. Invading and calling a snap referendum to validate it is how the Poles took Vilnius from Lithuania. When an election in the Ukrainian Rada resulted in unfavorable political leadership, the Ukrainian Bolsheviks decamped to Eastern Ukraine (Kharkov) to create their own competing institutions, primarily to justify Soviet intervention. Propaganda using the latest technologies of the day, provocations, assassinations (at home and abroad), front-organizations, a nexus between organized crime and state power, and the political use of diasporas were all used extensively by the belligerents of the Russian Civil War. Many of the hot-spots are even the same: Crimea, Donetsk, Kharkov, Abkhazia, Adjara, Transnistria, and others.
Hybrid states emphasize direct and indirect approaches across land, air, sea, space, and cyber domains to achieve geopolitical objectives. The objectives of the hybrid state are unbounded and accelerated policy to deter and influence relevant actors.To develop resilience to both direct and indirect approaches to such strategies, targeted nations must understand the operational environment, its cross-domain effects, and the evolving character of war. It is imperative this comprehensive understanding of the operational environment encompasses planning considerations that include the adversary’s critical factors.
Maritime hybrid warfare has the potential to become a major issue across all the levels of warfare. Its methods are numerous, but will likely involve autonomous systems, drones, Q-boats, little blue sailors, cyber-attacks, and propaganda. Ultimately, these methods will be hard to combat, but their effects can be reduced.
Much has been written about the morass that is Syria, and current U.S. approaches have more limitations than opportunities there due in large part to the “war of all against all” conditions. Ukraine on the other hand, is the proverbial low-hanging, and equally importantly, ripe fruit for U.S. support. This does not mean that it is without problems; quite the contrary. But equally so, it provides opportunities for the U.S. to foster its identity as a democratic Great Power, one that supports those who bear the mantle of responsive government––in clear contrast to both Russian and Chinese dictatorships, and rival regional and non-state powers vying for influence on the global stage.
The Vicksburg Campaign yields a number of lessons for tacticians and strategists. Grant was a talented commander to be sure, but the most important reason for his success was the Union Navy under the able leadership of Admiral Porter. Not just its presence, but the tight coordination between the two allowed one to support the other and vice versa. Land and sea are too intimately connected during amphibious campaigns for the typical supported/supporting relationships to work, there must be symbiosis.